Rob Collard hailed a “good recovery” to 12th on the grid at Brands Hatch GP, after gearbox problems made his final Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship qualifying session more difficult than planned.
Collard sits 18 points behind West Surrey Racing team-mate Sam Tordoff with three races in Kent remaining on Sunday, but was hindered by a gearbox issue at the start of the 30-minute qualifying session.
“It was a good recovery for the team”, Collard told The Checkered Flag after a session filled with drama for the BMW driver, starting with mechanical problems.
“Qualifying didn’t go to plan really at the start. We had a gear linkage problem and lost all our gears; I accelerated out of the pits and got into third gear, but that was my lot.
“I had to then creep back into the pits which was a real blow, because we didn’t get the first run on the new tyre.”
Following a red flag stoppage after Aron Smith rolled his Team BKR Volkswagen CC, a rain shower looked to have potentially decided the grid. Down in 31st and last at the time, Collard recovered to a 12th place he thought was not initially possible.
“I really though that was qualifying over”, added Collard of the subsequent downpour. “It really didn’t look promising.
“The rain was coming down, the track was slippery and I thought the only thing I could do was to put a few laps in and hope that, come the end of the session, it would jump us up maybe even just five or so positions.”
Drying conditions gave drivers a second chance, Collard saying: “As the session went on, the tyres came in nicely. The car was very strong actually. We’d done too many laps come the end of the session and the tyres went off while others had their tyres up to peak.”
Collard is one of eight drivers that could lift the BTCC trophy at the end of the weekend, but remained relieved that his rivals sit within striking distance. Tordoff will start 10th, while Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal‘s Hondas sit seventh and 11th respectively.
“I look now and you’ve got Sam and Matt around me – I thought they’d be a bit better off”, added Collard, who bids for a maiden BTCC title on Sunday.
“Fingers crossed. We don’t seem to be making this very easy for ourselves!”